My Broken Pancreas: The surprising ways Type 1 Diabetes has made me Better!

This week’s post is from someone I connected with through the wonderful world of Twitter and Samantha Kelly, @TweetingGoddess. (I tip my hat, Sam). Rob O’Donohue is creator and founder of the 1% Better Podcast where he says “If you’re of a curious disposition, have a positive outlook, are devoted to, or even have a passing interest in making yourself a little bit better (let’s set the bar low and aim for 1%) then I’m very hopeful you’ll enjoy listening to my podcast.”

Rob lives in Cork but is originally from Longford. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2012 and this diagnosis has taken him on a very unexpected journey. 

Rob is a qualified Executive Coach (ICF) and has been Mentoring and Coaching over the last decade in various roles held during his career. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob currently is a director of Project Management and Leadership Coaching at Dell in Cork, Ireland. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, leadership, goal setting, meditation, and other topics, like this one! Rob recently published an eBook on giving up alcohol for 2018 called ‘Dry18’ and can be downloaded for free here.

Photo Credit Rob O’Donohue

Photo Credit Rob O’Donohue

My Broken Pancreas: The surprising ways Type 1 Diabetes has made me Better!

My name is Rob O’Donohue. I’m a Longford native but living in and loving Cork since 2008. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2012 at aged 34. At the time, life was full on: busy with work trying to climb the corporate ladder and keeping all the balls in the air. Adding Diabetes into the mix wasn’t part of the plan and I wasn’t sure how I’d manage. 

My grandfather used to say, “your health is your wealth” and like most of these common sayings, there is a lot of truth in them. However, like most, I took health for granted. 

When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it suddenly became very clear that the wealth I was chasing and all those other material pursuits were in fact not real wealth at all.  My real wealth; my health, was now at risk! It took this diagnosis, this wake-up call, to bring it firmly into focus. 

Photo Credit Rob O’Donohue

Photo Credit Rob O’Donohue

At first, I was in denial; surely there must have been a mistake? Then, I convinced myself I could find a cure. But after a few months, I realised that the only way forward was to embrace it: talk about it and, if possible, start looking for the upsides, or positives, in my broken pancreas syndrome. 

Seven years into my type 1 diabetes journey, my life is a whole lot better than it was before diagnosis. I’ve been reflecting on this for a while so this piece is a great excuse to put it all together. I took to twitter to ask if others with type 1 diabetes could relate or if I was just crazy. The response was (and continues to be) huge. Benefits like improved patience, greater empathy, better planning, increased compassion, more responsibility, project management skills, and connecting with other like-minded & like-pancreas people are just some of the other benefits that came back. 

Here are The surprising ways Type 1 Diabetes has made me Better

Developing a more Positive Mindset

Nobody wants to get diabetes; I’d prefer not to have it at all. It’s not fair, but it could be worse! We live in a time when the disease is more manageable: technology breakthroughs have advanced management drastically, with more exciting advances on the horizon. My diagnosis was a bit of a wake-up call; I’m not immortal after all but I can still lead a full life. That’s a positive. It’s made me realise much more what I have and look for the positives. This mindset takes practice but if you look for the bright spots, you’ll find them.

A Better Whole Life Grid 

Diabetes was a big factor in making me step back and create a better life balance. In the coaching work I do, I like to use a tool called the ‘whole life grid’ (check out more on it here). I would have struggled to populate half of this in 2012. I prioritized work over everything else; I was close to burn-out and I didn’t have a clear understanding of who I was or what I valued. My diagnosis made me re-evaluate and look at other areas of my life that needed to be addressed. Since then, I’ve made a much more conscious effort to have a focus on the 9 boxes that make up my whole life and it’s turned out great. 

My Fitness is Better

Exercise and fitness were always on my radar, I started running long distances about a year before the diabetes blessing but after coming to terms with the news, I realised now that keeping fit and healthy were no longer optional. It became a must do! Since then, I’ve completed 3 marathons, many adventures races, and learned to swim properly (at last). I get to exercise 4-5 times per week. 

My Values & Sense of Purpose are Better!

Type 1 diabetes motivated me to get a better and clearer sense of purpose forcing me to question what I stood for and to challenge my own limiting beliefs. In 2015, through some professional development, I worked with an executive coach. This was a transformative experience and encouraged me to understand my ‘why’ better, clarify my values, helped in identifying my identity and purpose. It also gave me a greater self-confidence, self-acceptance and further helped me realise that diabetes was something I should embrace. 

My Dry18 journey 

I’ve always been fond of a few drinks. Thankfully, I had the vast majority of craziness out of my system by 2012 so my diagnosis didn’t impact my social life too much. However, when you add the challenges of managing blood sugars on a night out and the day after, it made drinking less appealing. On 1st January 2018, I decided to make that ‘I’m never drinking again’ statement a reality and stopped drinking completely. It began as year-long challenge with a good friend but is still going strong on month 20. Diabetes, while not the main reason, was a contributing factor in helping me achieve this goal. (I tracked the Dry18 journey in a series of posts that I shared out in an eBook – it’s free here).

My 1% Better Podcast Idea 

My diagnosis of type 1 diabetes set off a chain of events that have put me on a different path and a more positive outlook helped me take on new challenges. This led to an increase in exercise where I started listening to more podcasts. In parallel, after embarking on the coaching journey, initially as a client, then becoming an executive coach myself, my confidence and self-belief grew. I started to play with the idea of starting my own podcast, instead of just consuming them. It was a big audacious goal. One that scared the hell out of me but one that I felt I might be able to pull off. 

In early 2017, after months of planning and despite being wracked with self-doubt, I launched the RoboftheGreen platform and with it the podcast ‘1% Better’.  Now, 120+ episodes later and still pushing through the fears on a weekly basis, the podcast is growing bigger and better. It’s given me a platform to share stories, lessons learned and insights from a broad range of leaders across the globe. It’s also been a channel where I could share interviews with other type 1 diabetics like Eoghan Quinn and Emma O’Toole; both clearly show that type 1 diabetes can be an enabler instead of a disabler.

If I wasn’t podcasting, I wouldn’t have connected in with Thriveabetes which has lead to this post. I’m really glad it happened as it’s helped me clarify a few things that were rolling around in my head. There can be a lot of positives to be taken out of almost any situation that might seem negative or bad initially. It will probably take work, effort, soul searching, but if you challenge yourself to look at things from a different perspective, I believe you’ll find a positive or two. 

Thanks for reading.


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Photo Credit Rob O’Donohue

Photo Credit Rob O’Donohue